Do you still cherish memories of scoring the winning goal for your high school soccer team? Or have you found yourself looking for ways to mention your college softball scholarship in casual conversation, despite the fact that you graduated 12 years ago? If your Wii sports package is the closest you get to team competition these days, why not nurture your inner athlete by starting your own community sports club?
Community sports leagues and recreational sports teams provide great ways for players of all ages to have fun and socialize while they keep their skills sharp and get some exercise. A well-run league can help to strengthen neighborhood ties, keep kids and young adults out of trouble, and build a sense of camaraderie within a community of any size.
Whether you have moves the pros would envy or you just like to get outside and run around with a ball, there's bound to be a sports league that fits your needs. But if you can't find one in your area, you can start one yourself. The idea may seem daunting, but it could be easier than you think. Read on to find five tips for starting your own sports club team.
Do Your Research
Sports like soccer and basketball are perennial favorites, but if your sports passion is something a little less popular, you'll want to make sure you're not the only one showing up on game day. Check with your local community center, YMCA, or recreation department (which may be run by your city, county or township, depending on the size of your community) to see if a league already exists for your sport. If so, you're in luck: You may be able to join an existing team, or, if you can round up enough fellow enthusiasts to field your own squad, you can simply follow the league's guidelines for entering a team of your own.
If, on the other hand, you find that you are the first in your community to recognize the need for an organized Quidditch, disc golf or dodgeball league, you'll have a bit more work cut out for you. But don't despair. Your next step is to ensure that you can find enough local interest in your sport to sustain at least a few teams. Talk to friends and colleagues, and consider using a Web site such as eteamz.com, findasportsleaguenow.com, findsportsnow.com or sportsvite.com to find others in your area with similar interests.
Once you've identified some like-minded players, see if you can recruit one or two to join you in forming a preliminary leadership team. Together, you should have no trouble tackling the remaining steps to creating your own community sports club team.
Find a Venue and Make Your Pitch
In most communities, the local recreation director or parks and recreation department will be the best place to start. You may even have spoken to someone there during your initial search for a league. Once you've identified the right contact for your community (you can usually find this on the official Web site for your municipality), find out the procedure for making a proposal for a new sports league. Do you need to make a formal presentation to the parks department? If you live in a small town or a rural area, can you ask to be added to the agenda for the next meeting of the recreation committee or borough council?
Before you go before the board, you'll want to think about what resources, if any, you'll be asking the community to provide. Will you need to rely on public facilities such as fields, courts, or an indoor or outdoor skating rink? Do these facilities exist, or do you need to request that they be built? What financial, civic or social benefits might your club bring to the region? For example, could the playing fields transform a vacant lot from an eyesore into an asset?
If your town is not supportive of your proposal, you might try approaching your church, community center or even employer to see if they are open to the idea of setting up a small league. Once you've picked your location and secured the necessary permissions, you're on to the next step.
Establish a Budget
While some communities may have a dedicated recreation budget, most community sports leagues are on their own when it comes to costs. To determine what expenses you'll need to cover, think about everything you'll require to set up for your first game:
- Facilities -- Is there a fee to use or reserve a field, court or rink? Will you need to contribute to maintenance costs such as lawn mowing and snow removal? What about measuring, surveying and lining fields?
- Equipment -- Do you need goal cages, backstops, bases, goal posts or nets?
- Will you require official uniforms, or will this be a more informal league? Will members need to supply their own protective gear, such as helmets, face masks, chest pads, shoulder pads, if your sport requires these items?
- Referees -- Will you need to pay referees or umpires or will these be volunteers?
Once you've laid out all of your costs, try to determine what revenues you'll need to cover your expenses. If member dues and registrations won't do it (you mean your neighbors don't want to pay $350 a season to join the best badminton league around?), consider asking local businesses or sporting equipment companies to sponsor individual teams. Once the league is established, fundraisers such as bake sales, car washes or even a concession stand at the field can provide an additional source of revenue.
Create a League of Your Own
It might seem like overkill to draft a bunch of legalese if all you want to do is meet up with some friends for a game of Ultimate Frisbee on Sunday mornings. But as your organization grows, you'll find that having written guidelines in place will help to keep everyone on the same page.
It may be a given that you'll be the chairperson or commissioner of your new league. But if you'll be handling dues and registration fees, you'll also want to elect or designate a treasurer for your organization, and a secretary to keep track of discussions and meeting minutes. Expanding the board to five or 10 additional members can help to spread tasks such as fundraising, scheduling, marketing and recruitment so that one person (probably you!) isn't stuck doing all of the work.
While some community sports leagues go as far as to become incorporated as non-profit organizations, others prefer to operate less formally. Whichever route you choose, creating bylaws will help to define the structure of the league, giving players and board members a clear understanding of their roles within the club.
As any 8-year-old can probably tell you, playtime goes much more smoothly if everyone agrees to the same rules and regulations before the game begins. What are your league's rules regarding contact or physical roughness? How many players to a team? Co-ed or segregated by gender? What about cancellations, postponements and make up games? Work with your newly created board to get buy-in on the rules, and make sure each player signs off on a copy when they join the organization.
Plan for the Future
What will happen to your league when the founding members are all too arthritic to catch a football, or adult kickball loses its hipster appeal? How will you recruit and train new volunteers and keep young players coming in to replace those lost to busy careers, family responsibilities or the decidedly un-fun physical surprises that come with middle age?
Consider forming youth teams to build interest among the school-age set, or even a "silver league" for those who'd like to play shorter halves -- or at a slower pace. If your league has a revenue surplus in its peak years, set aside a rainy day fund for rebuilding and maintenance expenses that you might encounter down the road. And don't forget to set up a succession plan to pass your knowledge and enthusiasm to the next generation in the unlikely event that you ever decide to hang up your cleats.
Funny intramural team names can make recreational sports that much more fun. Learn about 10 funny intramural team names at HowStuffWorks.
- Di Serio, Luigi. "How to Start and Run Your Own Sports Team." Diserio.com. (July 22, 2011) http://www.diserio.com/sportsteam.html
- Griffith, Bill. "Starting a Disc Golf Club." Professional Disc Golf Association. (July 22, 2011) http://www.pdga.com/affiliate_club/start-club
- National Alliance for Youth Sports (July 19, 2011) http://www.nays.org/Sports_Programs/start_smart/soccer.cfm
- Religious Product News. "Eight Ways to Start an Adult Sports Program." (July 22, 2011) http://www.religiousproductnews.com/articles/2011-January/In-Every-Issue/Eight-Ways-to-Start-an-Adult-Sports-Program.htm
- Schafer, Dave. "Sports league offers employees fun, fitness, and camaraderie." (July 22, 2011) http://www.houstontx.gov/pulse/summer10/sports.html